[cnn-photo-caption image=http://cnnpoliticalticker.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/t1larg-uscapitol-1207.jpg?w=640 width=300 height=169]Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Gloria Borger.
CNN Senior Political Analyst
So I clearly remember one morning last summer when the issue of the Bush-era tax cuts came up during a breakfast with a top Democrat. I naturally asked what the party's game plan might be on extending those tax cuts. Would they make the issue of tax cuts for the middle class a centerpiece of the fall campaign? Or would they punt until after the election?
The Democrat's answer: We're not sure. (Shocking, I know.)
As it turns out, the Democrats actually did both: They had a go at the class warfare (GOP holding the middle-class tax cuts hostage for tax cuts for the wealthy) argument. Then they punted and didn't vote on the issue before the election.
So when the Democrats angrily declare President Obama a sellout on the issue of taxes, last summer comes to mind: If it was such a touchstone for Democrats, why didn't they vote on it before the election?
The real answer is they didn't have the votes. Scared moderate Democrats were balking at any votes to raise taxes. Oh, and one more thing: House Democrats didn't trust their Senate brethren to pass it.
So nothing happened.
And now, as they rail against Obama's compromise with Republicans (who, by the way, will have a lot more votes and control of the House next year), how about this thought: Where were you last fall?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/12/08/art.getty_obamacu.jpg]Editor's note: John P. Avlon is a CNN contributor and senior political columnist for The Daily Beast. He is the author of "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America." The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of John Avlon.
The fault lines beneath the Democratic Party have been rumbling between the left and the center. Now with President Obama's compromise on the Bush taxes, they threaten to erupt entirely.
But it's just the newest chapter of an old fight, and despite the liberal base's fury, it's evidence that Obama is trying to re-center himself before the 2012 elections.
One of the strangest signs of our political times is that while the far right considers Obama a socialist, the far left thinks he's a corporate sellout. Of course, he can't be both. But this distorted view disproportionately dominates our political debates. And long before Frank Rich joined the liberals' dumping on Obama by diagnosing him as suffering from "Stockholm Syndrome" at the hands of his Republican captors this weekend, the left has been saying that the problem with the president is that he's too centrist.
This goes back to the '08 campaign. Liberal New York Times columnist Paul Krugman took early aim at Obama, saying, "I find it a little bit worrisome if we have a candidate who basically starts compromising before the struggle has even begun." Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas extended the narrative from the netroots by saying that Obama might be one of those "spineless Democrats who are ... afraid of controversy."
To the left, these concerns have been validated by Obama's recent tax cut compromises. But even during the liberal high-water mark of successfully fighting for health care reform attempted by Democratic presidents since Truman, Obama was being attacked by the left for not steadfastly supporting a public option.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/12/07/art.getty_obamataxcuts.jpg]CNN Wire Staff
The White House was fighting Tuesday to persuade Democrats to support a compromise on taxes that President Barack Obama and Republican leaders have reached.
The overall compromise will cost between $600 and $800 billion over two years, according to CNN estimates.
At the heart of the deal: an extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for two more years, which would keep income tax rates at their current levels for everyone, as Republicans have advocated. Obama and other Democrats had argued that tax rates should stay the same for most people but rise for people earning more than $200,000 a year and families making $250,000 or more a year.
The deal Obama and Republicans have struck also includes a one-year cut in payroll taxes, from 6.2% to 4.2% on a worker's first $106,800 of wages. If implemented, it would mean that someone earning $50,000 a year would pay $1,000 less in Social Security contributions next year. Someone earning $100,000 would pay $2,000 less. The payroll tax rate would go back up to 6.2% in 2012.
Agreeing to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans represented a major concession for Obama. In a concession to Democrats, Republican negotiators agreed to leave in place for 13 months the option to file for extended federal unemployment benefits. That will not, however, affect how long someone can collect unemployment benefits - the maximum will remain 99 weeks in states hardest hit by job loss.
"It's not perfect," Obama said in revealing the compromise, but "we cannot play politics at a time when the American people are looking for us to solve problems."
Several Democrats have said they have reservations about the deal. One reason: It would cost hundreds of billions of dollars.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://cnnpoliticalticker.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/t1larg-uscapitol-1207.jpg?w=640 width=300 height=169]Dana Bash and Ted Barrett
Senate Democrats are openly expressing their disappointment, and in some cases outrage, with the President Obama's tax cut deal.
And what is most striking walking the hallways and talking to senators is that the palpable frustration is coming not just from liberal Democrats, but moderates as well.
To be sure – despite their dismay – most Senate Democrats are saying they haven't yet decided how they will vote, because they are waiting for more details.
Still, Democrats are telling us they're not only unhappy with the president for breaking a promise that he and others made not to extend Bush-era tax cuts for wealthier Americans, they're also expressing concern about the overall cost of the plan and its impact on the deficit.
"I still seem puzzled at the president's enthusiasm, and the Republicans, giving an income tax break for people making over $1 million. We're borrowing $46 billion to do so," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-Louisiana, a moderate Democrat.
Landrieu also chastised the president for dealing with Republicans without adequately consulting his fellow Democrats, and said she's worried this is the way the next two years will be.
"He's enthusiastic about this new arrangement dealing with the Republican caucus that stated, according to their leader, their number one objective is to unseat him. I can understand trying to appeal to independent voters. I do that myself. I think it's very important. But this sort of enthusiasm for caucusing with Republicans – and he didn't even, literally, didn't even speak to the Democratic caucus. Not any of it. Not the liberal group, not the moderate group, not the conservative group," said Landrieu.
New Jersey Democrat Frank Lautenberg, a liberal, accused the president of "capitulation under pressure."
"I think capitulation under pressure is something that has, in my view, the wrong message and will have the wrong outcome," said Lautenberg.
Tom Foreman | BIO
If you had any doubts about who would get the honor of being Republican Bad Boy for the Democrats this fall, set your mind at ease: Minority Leader John Boehner has the job.
President Obama is teeing off on him like a new Titleist. Dems on the Hill, fearful of the fall of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should the Republicans take a majority, are rallying around the attack flag. And the Democratic National Committee is launching a commercial this week that suggests he could be the bane of millions of jobless Americans.
Cue the music and the dramatic announcer. "Think republicans have no plan for the economy?” this commercial says, “It's not true. John Boehner opposes funding for government jobs; jobs for teachers, for cops, for firefighters. Boehner has a different plan; Tax cuts for businesses, those that shift jobs and profits overseas, saving multinational corporations ten billion. So to China and India and Mexico, Boehner has a message: You’re welcome.”
For many Democrats, this is enough red meat to make a gown for Lady Gaga. For many Republicans, it is another effort to push the spotlight away from the Democrats’ economic policies at a difficult time. So who is right?
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/08/02/gal.obama.0731u.gi.jpg width=300 height=169]
Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN
Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University.
Despite all the questions surrounding the war in Afghanistan, congressional Democrats have not challenged the administration's policies since President Obama announced a surge of troops in 2009.
The release of classified documents about the war by the website WikiLeaks seemed to have no impact on Capitol Hill. The same week that the documents were released, the House approved legislation with almost no debate that will provide tens of billions of dollars for the war effort.
Even though the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee is chaired by John Kerry, who entered the national spotlight in the 1970s with his riveting testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the problems with the war in Vietnam, the panel has been relatively quiescent.
Democrats don't want Afghanistan to become a political problem for Obama. Their party is having enough trouble as a result of the recession and the deficit that they don't want to give their opponents one more issue to run on. Democrats, who have suffered for decades when being attacked as "weak on defense," also fear that any questions about the war will open them up to those attacks again.
But Democrats who have doubts about the war can't afford to be silent. When Congress doesn't publicly ask tough questions of the White House, poor decisions have often ensued.
The decision over funding Afghanistan came one week before the the 46th anniversary of the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7, 1964.
David Gewirtz | BIO
Director, U.S. Strategic Perspective Institute
American politics hasn't always been dominated by the Democratic and Republican parties.
The Democratic Party didn't arrive on the scene until 1828 and it took until 1854 for the early "modern" Republican party to enter the game.
Strangely enough, from 1792 to 1824, there was actually a "Democratic-Republican Party". That would almost be like having Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner on the same side. It boggles the mind.
Founding father John Adams famously described political parties as "the greatest political evil." Adams was a wise man.
Although Democrats and Republicans have been around for a long time, we've also had other major parties - including Federalists, Whigs, and even Teddy Roosevelt's Bull Moose party.
And now we have the Tea Party and/or the Conservative Party.
What are the chances that the Tea Partiers or Conservatives will form a viable third party? And if they did, where would they get their strength from? And who would they hurt?
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Editor's note: Gloria Borger is a senior political analyst for CNN, appearing regularly on CNN's "The Situation Room," "AC360°" and "State of the Union," as well as participating in special event coverage.
CNN Senior Political Analyst
Washington (CNN) – There was a theory, back in the day, that if the president could only pass health care reform, the glow of that victory would spur him on to better things: more wins, more credibility for the governing Democrats, more reasons to keep Democrats in power.
So much for that.
Right now, there's a hole in the Gulf. We watch it every day as it dumps who-knows-how-many-thousands of barrels of oil into the pristine water, endangering everything around it. Maybe the anti-government crowd thinks it's fine to wait for BP to fix it; most folks just want it fixed, period.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/05/24/joe.sestak.getty.jpg caption="Rep. Joe Sestak's victory illustrates that some of the grass-roots energy from the 2008 presidential election is still alive and kicking, Julian Zelizer says."]
Editor's note: Julian E. Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School. His new book is "Arsenal of Democracy: The Politics of National Security: From World War II to the War on Terrorism," published by Basic Books. Zelizer writes widely about current events.
By Julian Zelizer
Special to CNN
For several weeks, Democrats have been feeling blue about the 2010 midterm elections. Many have been worried about the possibility of a precipitous decline in the size of their majority in the House and Senate, or even about Republicans retaking control of Congress.
The primaries and special elections turned into a litmus test on the condition of Democrats. If that assumption is true, then Tuesday produced some good news. Even with the alleged "anti-incumbent" fever that has spread through parts of the electorate, Democrats came out of several key races with positive news.
The first good sign came from a special election in western Pennsylvania to fill the seat of the late John Murtha. Democrat Mark Critz, a former staffer for Murtha, defeated the businessman and Tea Party candidate Tim Burns. In his campaign, Burns ran as an "outsider" and tied Critz to Washington Democrats. In response, Critz focused much of his campaign on how to create jobs for the middle class and Murtha's record of bringing government funds back to the district.
The district is the kind of electoral mix - economically liberal and socially conservative - where Republicans are hoping to make big gains in November. So Critz's victory is not good news for the GOP.